Issue #66

Spring 2018


by Paul Blaney

It was decided to combine Bulgaria and Romania. Bulmania, the new country would be called, or possibly Rolgaria. Only, right away the two governments started raising the roof. We couldn't impose something like that on sovereign nations, and so on and so forth. So, first of all, we had to make it clear that, yes, in fact we could. Still they demanded to know why. What was the point of the measure? Discussions grew heated. We weren't in the habit, we retorted, of justifying our policy to all and sundry. What was the point of anything? What, we were tempted to ask, was the point of their two countries remaining separate?

Cooler heads prevailed and we relented. The point of combining their two countries, we informed them, was Rationalization. Even then they weren't satisfied. The impudence of these tin-pot little men and women never ceases to amaze. It was time, we could see, for some plain talking. We told them there were too many countries and, anyhow, a lot of people got theirs mixed up: former Communist nations, corrupt backwaters, with mountains, and beaches on the Black Sea. Which people? they wanted to know. Not their people! And they got it into their heads that they should draw up a report. In no time this report became an obsession and, for reasons too complicated to detail here, we resolved to let them go ahead with it.

They actually worked on it together, rounding up cultural historians and geographers, archaeologists, folklorists, ethnographers, and whatever you call those people who study linguistics. The report took six months to compile and edit, and five full days to present. The presentation was erudite and detailed, passionately argued, and . . . They just didn't get it. We did our best to listen but it was like visiting a tired old circus, or a museum of farming utensils. The whole thing was designed, naturally, to demonstrate the crucial differences between Bulgaria and Romania, or vice versa.

And then we had to make a show of conferring. We "conferred" for five hours—the shortest time deemed politic—before categorically dismissing their arguments. Even so, can you believe it, they wanted us to justify our verdict. Well, we knew better than to start down that road again. But then, of course, they refused to vacate the chamber, and all the dire predictions started up, the solemn emotional blackmail. If we forced the two countries together, there'd be pogroms, atrocities, bloodletting, ethnic cleansing, wholesale migrations . . . And, naturally enough, denunciations were voiced; they accused us of neo-imperialism, of latter-day colonialism and putting on show trials. (Who exactly do they think they are, these impassioned Bulgarians and Romanians? Patriots, would you say? Selfless public servants? Or were they just concerned for their own jobs. One country doesn't need two ministers of trade, or tourism, or industry.) Soon, just as you'd expect, a couple of women had stormed the podium. They unfurled a banner: Unelected Dictatorship—as if anyone ever heard of an elected one! Suffice to say it was the usual indecorous spectacle. They kept it up past midnight, though we'd quietly filed from the chamber and were having our dinners by then.

Bulmania, it appears, is the preferred name. The country of that name will come into existence in the new year. It is our sincere hope that unification will proceed smoothly but, no doubt, there'll be those who foresee profit in stirring the hornet's nest. In all likelihood, communities will be uprooted, property destroyed, shops looted and, yes, a number of children will likely be butchered. None of that invalidates our decision. We have done what we judged best, in the current circumstances and for the general good. As justifications go, ours—that's to say Rationalization—wasn't spurious. There are in fact too many countries. But the underlying benefits of unification lie beyond the grasp of your workaday politician or average academic. They are discernible only to a minority of specialists, probably no more than 300 of us worldwide. And we are quietly confident that the combination of these two countries, painful in the short-term, will, in due course, be seen to have boosted global prosperity as well as the new nation itself. Let history be our judge. We expect no recognition, still less gratitude. In the meantime and after well-earned long weekends, our thoughts turn to Africa, a continent which, at last count, seemed to contain no fewer than 50 countries!

Author Bio

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Paul Blaney is an Anglo-Irish-and-now-American fiction writer who lives in Easton, Pennsylvania and teaches at Rutgers. His novella, Handover, was published by Typhoon Press (Hong Kong). The Anchoress, another novella, and a novel, Mister Spoonface, were published by Red Button. He is currently at work on a novel, Crown of Thorns, and a series of autobiographical essays that pursue the elusive concept of Home. This is the seventh time his work has appeared in The Cafe Irreal, most recently in Issue 64. His work also appeared in our print anthology, The Irreal Reader: Fiction & Essays from The Cafe Irreal (Guide Dog Books 2013).